October 25: School Governance Weekly Wrap


Ombudsman Reveals Failings in the Australian Capital Territory’s Response to Reportable Conduct

According to The Age, a teacher accused of inappropriate behaviour towards a student sparked the first investigation by the ACT Ombudsman into the territory’s reportable conduct scheme. While ACT Policing did not press criminal charges, ombudsman Michael Manthorpe said the case had revealed a number of failures in the Education Directorate’s response, including not sharing information crucial to child safety with external regulators. The Education Directorate, which has accepted all of the recommendations, said it was committed to both the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and to the reportable conduct scheme, which came into effect in July last year. Under the scheme, all government and religious organisations must report allegations, offences or convictions related to children to the Ombudsman within 30 days, and launch an investigation. The Directorate is currently reviewing its teachers’ code of professional practice, in which it will incorporate elements of the scheme. The Ombudsman also called on the Directorate to implement a formal risk assessment process to guide decision-making in relation to reportable conduct.

Canberra High School Student Dies After Sustaining Head Injuries During Class at Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve

According to ABC News, a 17-year-old Canberra high-school student has died after a tragic accident during a lesson at Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve. The accident involved a Year 10 boy from Campbell High School, who received head injuries and was taken to Canberra Hospital. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the incident was thought to involve a log. Education Minister Yvette Berry later told reporters that police, WorkSafe and the education and environment directorates were involved in the investigation into the incident. She was unable to say whether a teacher was present when the student was injured, nor whether first aid was administered, citing the investigation and the family’s request for privacy. She said the school participated in activity regularly on the mountain, but was unclear on whether that would be suspended in the wake of the incident.

ASIC Announces Review of School Banking

According to an ASIC Media Release, ASIC has announced that it will commence a review of school banking programs in primary schools. The Media Release stated that, “it is essential that young people develop the knowledge and the skills they need to engage effectively with financial products and services. Attitudes and behaviours around money can be shaped from an early age and education is a key component to support stronger financial capability and to better prepare young people to manage financial decisions throughout their life. School banking programs are offered to primary schools as a way of encouraging and supporting the importance of savings through regular deposits facilitated by the school. ASIC will consult with various stakeholders including from the education sector, consumer organisations, other regulatory agencies, as well as the banks offering the programs.” It is expected the review will be complete by mid-2019.

Labor Promises Jail for Priests who Cover up Child Abuse

According to The Age, Catholic priests who fail to report child abuse they learn about under the seal of confession would be jailed for up to three years under a re-elected Andrews state Labor government. Labor promised to amend the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) to make it mandatory to report to child protection authorities information about child abuse or harm disclosed during confession. There would also be amendments to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) ensuring that information disclosed in the context of a religious confession is not exempt. The move by Labor means jail for priests who cover up abuse is now bipartisan policy in Victoria after the Coalition announced in August that it would pursue similar changes if it won office.

More than 1000 Allegations of Child Abuse in Victoria in One Year

According to the Herald Sun, more than one thousand allegations of child abuse have been received by hundreds of Victorian organisations, including holiday camps, hospitals and private schools, in the last year. A new scheme requiring these types of bodies to report allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children to the Commission for Children and Young People shows 851 mandatory notifications of alleged abuse have been made in the past year. This covers 1328 individual allegations covering 765 victims with an average age of 11. Since the inception of the Reportable Conduct Scheme in July 2017, only 170 notifications involving 261 allegations have been finalised and only 10 have led to pending criminal charges. Principal Commissioner Liana Buchanan said these organisations had “variable responses” to allegations, with some tending to believe adults over children. She also noted a “reluctance to believe complaints made by children viewed as ‘difficult’ or ‘troubled’”. From 2019, the scheme will be extended further to include early years providers such as kindergartens, as well as museums, zoos, parks and gardens, taking its coverage to more than 10,000 organisations.

Disgraced South Australian Teacher who Left Students to Camp Alone While He Went to Hotel Among 13 in Trouble

According to The Advertiser, 13 SA teachers are to be struck off or faced other disciplinary action in the last year. Detailed in the Teachers Registration Board of South Australia Annual Report 2018, five teachers were disqualified from being registered as a teacher permanently for actions including child exploitation and unlawful sexual intercourse. One teacher, who was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for an alleged assault against his partner and a “preoccupation with sexual partners wearing school uniforms”, was also disqualified permanently. A formerly registered teacher, who was also found guilty of unprofessional conduct for leaving a group of students in a “self-reliant night on an outdoor education activity” while he stayed off-site at a hotel before returning to the site the following morning, had his registration renewed with conditions imposed preventing him from being the senior teacher or sole teacher on overnight school activities. Other complaints that led to disciplinary action included a teacher charged with serious drug and firearm offences that were later withdrawn, another teacher found guilty of the purchase, supply and use of cocaine, and a teacher who showed inappropriate text messages of a highly sexual nature to two Year 11 students.


Teacher’s ‘Moral Obligation’ to Help Self-Harming Student Crossed Professional Boundaries, Tribunal Rules

According to Stuff.co.nz, a school dean has been disciplined for her “good but misguided intentions” in closely supporting a suicidal, self-harming student. The young teacher felt a “moral obligation” to provide a sisterly relationship to the 18-year-old girl, allowing her to take “refuge” in her office during class time, and sleep in her room during a school trip. The relationship was not sexual but the teacher’s actions – including messaging the girl through Facebook, meeting outside of school, and picking her up from therapy sessions – breached professional boundaries, the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal said. The teacher, whose name has been suppressed, was fearful that distancing herself from the student or getting the school involved would worsen the teen’s mental health issues. The Tribunal’s ruling, published on Thursday, said the teacher was warned by the school principal and her own psychologist that the relationship was inappropriate.

High School Students ‘Fed’ Grandmother’s Ashes

According to the Sunshine Coast Daily, at least nine high school students have allegedly consumed a classmate’s dead grandma after they were unwittingly fed biscuits baked with her ashes. One schoolgirl who allegedly made the cremation cookies is reported to have handed them out to fellow students at Da Vinci Charter Academy High School in California, USA. She allegedly later told them that she had added the charred remains to her recipe. The students filed reports with the school resources officer, claiming that two female classmates had brought in homemade sugar cookies that were later revealed to have contained the ashes of one of their grandparents, according to the Davis Police Department. It is unclear if the biscuits actually contained human remains, and test results are pending.

US School Apologises after Canteen Serves Dish with Kangaroo Meat

According to ABC News, a school in the United States has had to apologise to students for the “anxiety and any harm” it may have caused by dishing up a kangaroo meat dish for lunch. The students were served a chilli made with a mix of beef and kangaroo on 10 October 2018, Nebraska’s Potter-Dix Public Schools superintendent Mike Williams said in a public letter. He explained that the school’s head cook, Kevin Frei, chose kangaroo for the meal because it was a very lean meat. However, Mr Williams had a few “thoughts on this situation” including “if a family wants to eat exotic foods, they can do so on their own time — not at school,” and “if we were to have food or ingredients that are out of the ordinary, they should be listed on the menu so that the students and families are aware of what they would be being served.” KSID — a radio station based in Sidney, Nebraska — said the school received two complaints, one of which claimed their child became ill after the lunch. Mr Williams said he did not believe kangaroo meat was unhealthy or dangerous, but emphasised the fact it was not a normal staple of the school community’s diet.

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